Graduate Field of Global Development
Effectively assess & address global development challenges
The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Global Development is a one-year, interdisciplinary graduate-level degree program combining a flexible course-based curriculum with a capstone or problem-solving project. The program is designed to enhance practical and technical skills and to prepare students for careers in field-based development and development policy roles serving low-income and rural communities globally. Featuring senior faculty advisors with strong global experience and international reputations, Cornell’s Global Development MPS program provides opportunities for critically analyzing development strategies and learning about practices, technologies, approaches and trends in development worldwide.
Communities around the world are faced with rapid change and complex and unprecedented challenges that require creative solutions and urgent attention. However, government agencies and private sector enterprise often lack personnel trained to deal with these emerging challenges. Similarly, professionals with disciplinary training often find themselves working on development issues for which they have limited preparation or technical knowledge.
The goal of the MPS program is to provide graduates with the ability to effectively assess development challenges and address them by applying up to date technical skills and working as part of transdisciplinary teams.
Master of Professional Studies (MPS)
Most applicants accepted into the Global Development MPS program have at least two years of relevant field or administrative experience. Many are returning Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) or experienced international professionals seeking to expand their knowledge and graduate credentials. Applicants with limited professional experience are also considered for admission, but must have fieldwork or other proficiencies aligned with the mission of the program.
Applicants need to obtain their own funding for the program, though we do offer a limited number of competitive fellowships, including one teaching assistantship and one full-tuition Coverdell Fellowship. The Coverdell Fellowship is awarded to an RPCV and may be granted to a single individual or shared among up to four fellows. All students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to apply for travel grants to support capstone project research and professional development workshops.
MPS students in the program have access to dedicated career services support in the CALS Office of Professional Programs and Extended Learning and through the vast network of Cornell alumni worldwide.
The MPS is an accredited, one-year, course-based master’s degree program that prepares individuals for the 21st-century workplace through knowledge development and career skillset refinement. The specialized, course-based instruction led by world-class faculty broadens expertise and provides various interdisciplinary venues for critically analyzing alternative strategies. Students learn about practices, technologies, approaches, and trends in agriculture and rural development efforts around the world.
The MPS program has two main components:
- Coursework: Students work with a faculty advisor to customize their course of study based on their area(s) of interest. While the majority of the courses (20 of the required 30 credits) will be in CALS, students have the flexibility to take additional coursework across Cornell. Students gain knowledge of development theory and practice combined with technical core competency in subject areas such as: production agriculture; soil, water and land management; agricultural, food systems and development economics; policy and trade; policy analysis; rural development; and participatory extension.
- Capstone project: With the guidance of a faculty advisor, MPS candidates undertake an applied capstone project to fulfill the MPS degree requirements. The MPS project offers the opportunity to apply newly-acquired problem solving tools to real world issues, providing valuable insights as students embark on their post-graduation careers.
MPS students are part of a cohort of CALS professional master’s students specializing in diverse fields of study and have a dedicated support organization, offering career guidance, professional skill development and a network of supportive Cornell alumni.
Admission criteria for the Master of Professional Studies program in the field of Global Development include at least two years of relevant professional experience, possession of an undergraduate degree granted by an institution of recognized standing, relevant academic preparation for graduate study in this program and clear professional objectives focused on global development or international agriculture and rural development, expressed in the statement of purpose.
Applicants with limited professional experience will also be considered for admission, but must have a relevant degree and field work or other experience appropriate to the mission of our program.
The regular application deadline is March 15. An additional early evaluation priority deadline has been added for February 1. Returning Peace Corps Volunteers may apply by either deadline date for Coverdell Scholarship consideration. All applications must be submitted through the Graduate School's online application process.
- A statement of purpose explaining why the applicant wishes to undertake graduate studies in their chosen field. The statement is given considerable weight in admission decisions.
- Two letters of recommendation. Most weight is given to recommendations by teachers who can assess the applicant’s ability to meet high academic standards.
- Complete transcripts from all educational institutions previously attended.
- For international applicants, an official TOEFL score is required before the application will be reviewed by the field. Detailed TOEFL requirements and instructions are available through the Graduate School website.
- GRE scores are not required or accepted.
- A current CV or resume.
- The application fee or a letter requesting a fee waiver, with appropriate documentation.
The current tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year is $38,354. Estimated living costs are not included.
Applicants need to obtain their own funding. International students are required to show proof of funding before the Graduate School will admit them to the program.
The program has one Coverdell Fellowship to award per year. The Fellowship may be awarded to one student, in which case it covers full tuition, or it may be split among up to four students at the discretion of the Global Development admissions committee.
The program also awards, on a competitive basis, one Teaching Assistantship per year, which covers tuition and provides a stipend. The TA-ship requires up to 15 hours of work per week.
Many students finance their education through external funding opportunities or by securing federal or private loans.
Students are responsible for obtaining their own funding for the MPS program in Global Development. The program offers a limited number of scholarships and fellowships on a competitive basis. The list we provide below includes fellowships administered by the program, by other programs at Cornell, and by external agencies. This list is not an exhaustive guide to funding sources. It provides information about the sources of support obtained by our students in recent years.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) offers one Coverdell Fellowship to a returned Peace Corps volunteer in the field of Global Development. The fellowship covers full-tuition and health insurance for one academic year. The fellowship may be split between two students.
There is no separate application for the Coverdell Fellowship. All RPCVs admitted to the program are considered for the fellowship. If you are a finalist, you will be asked to submit a Description of Service (DOS). Finalists will be notified in April.
Students admitted to the MPS program may apply for a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship from the South Asia or Southeast Asia Program at Cornell.
Applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents and fellowship deadlines are often in early March. Interested applicants are therefore encouraged to apply to the MPS program early. The Fellowship provides a nine-month stipend of roughly $15,000 plus an education allowance (towards tuition) of roughly $18,000. Fellowship recipients agree to take language and regional studies courses in both academic semesters of the MPS program (note that language credits do not count toward the 30-credit requirement for the MPS degree).
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) provides fellowships to women for graduate study. Fellowships are available to US citizens and to women who are not US citizens but wish to study in the United States.
The Fulbright Foreign Student Program provides scholarships for young professionals to pursue graduate study in the United States.
The Organization of American States (OAS) Academic Scholarship Program provides scholarships to students from member states to study outside the sponsoring country. Non-US citizens from an OAS member state are eligible to apply for scholarships to study in the United States.
The MPS Program in Global Development at Cornell University has been selected as a “preferred program” by the Joint Japan World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program (JJWBGSP). Admitted students from selected countries are eligible to apply to the World Bank for full funding. Please note that the deadline for applications was in April for this past cycle. Visit the World Bank site read about eligibility criteria, scholarship benefits, and how to apply.
1. Can I transfer credits to count toward my MPS degree?
Yes. A maximum of six credits may be transferred in but these cannot be credits used to satisfy the requirements for a different degree program. That is, you can't simply take credits from your undergraduate transcript and count them toward Cornell's MPS. You may, however, request credit for courses taken at Cornell or another institution that did not lead to a degree.
2. What funding is available for MPS students?
Unfortunately, we have very limited funding for the program. Students are supported by their governments or employers or they are self-funded.
The program awards a Teaching Assistantship to one student. This award covers tuition and provides a stipend. The TA position requires an average of 15 hours of work per week during the academic year. The TA helps with an undergraduate course in the fall and with the MPS program throughout the academic year.
The program also awards one Coverdell Fellowship to a returned Peace Corps Volunteer. This award covers tuition. It may be awarded to a single student or divided among as many as four students.
Students interested in learning a South Asian or Southeast Asian language have also applied for and received Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships from the South Asia Program (SAP) or the Southeast Asia Program (SEAP). These fellowships require students to take language and area studies courses and they provide funding toward tuition (equivalent to roughly half the cost of tuition) as well as a stipend.
3. How do I apply for the Coverdell Fellowship or for the Teaching Assistantship?
There is no separate application process for the Coverdell Fellowship or the Teaching Assistantship. All admitted RPCVs will be considered for the Coverdell Fellowship and all admitted students will be considered for the TAship. Decisions will be made in early April.
4. Can I work while enrolled in the program?
Yes. Full-time students may work up to 20 hours per week.
5. Does the program accept letters of recommendation via email?
No. Recommendation letters are not accepted via email. They need to be submitted online to ApplyWeb by your references. All letters of recommendation submitted as part of the application package should appear on letterhead and include a signature.
6. May I submit a copy of my TOEFL/IELTS scores during the application process?
Yes. Self-reported TOEFL/IELTS scores are accepted as part of the application.
However, you will need to provide an official copy of your test scores before beginning the program. You should contact your TOEFL/IELTS test center and request that they submit your results to the Cornell University Graduate School. The Graduate School sets the requirements for minimum TOEFL/IELTS scores. The program cannot make exceptions to these minimum requirements.
7. How do I request a waiver for the application fee?
The Graduate School handles all requests for application fee waivers. Please consult their website for information about fee waiver eligibility and how to apply.
8. Can I apply for matriculation in the winter/spring (January) semester?
No. We accept students into the program in the fall semester only. In rare cases, such as cases involving delayed visas, we will make exceptions to this policy.
9. Is this a STEM designated program?
No. The MPS in Global Development is not a STEM designated program
10. Where do graduates of the MPS program find employment?
The program has a vast network of alumnae working in organizations around the world. Many of our graduates work in development agencies or NGOs, and some find work in the private sector.
11. What are "registration units?"
A registration unit is one semester of full-time study. Cornell requires MPS students to complete at least two semesters of full-time study, or the equivalent.
12. How are advisors assigned or selected?
MPS students are required to have an academic advisor. Students choose an advisor from a list provided by the program. Ideally, advisors are selected early in the fall semester but must be named by the end of October. Until the advisor is selected, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) will act as your temporary advisor.
13. Can I change my advisor?
Yes. Changes of advisors are permitted and must be made online via your student center account.
14. What if my desired advisor is not a member of the field of Global Development?
Discuss the situation with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). It is sometimes possible for MPS students to work with faculty who are not members of the field.
15. When should I contact a potential advisor?
We encourage students to wait until they have been accepted into the program to communicate with potential advisors, and we encourage students to wait until they arrive on campus to finalize their advisor selections.
16. Do I have to take the courses listed for the specializations on the program website?
No. The courses we list on the website are simply illustrations or examples of what students with these general interests have taken in the past. All students work with an academic advisor to tailor a curriculum to suits their needs and interests. The program has no required courses other than the MPS Seminar.
A candidate for the Master of Professional Studies in Global Development degree must complete the following items to be eligible to graduate:
- A minimum of 2 semesters of coursework, in residence, with a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester, and a total of 30 credit hours.
- Out of the 30 credits, 20 must be in CALS; 18 must be for a letter grade; 24 must be in graduate courses or seminars 4000 and higher.
- A maximum of 6 of the required 30 credit hours may be earned through the student's capstone project.
- A petition to the MPS committee for exceptions to credit hour requirements may be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies. Language courses and writing courses do not count toward the credits required for the degree.
- A maximum of 6 credit hours earned outside the program at Cornell University or elsewhere may be counted toward the 30 credit hours requirement at the discretion of the faculty advisor. These credits must be appropriate to the subject of the chosen field of study and completed not more than 5 years prior to admission.
- Satisfactory completion of a capstone project paper under the supervision of the faculty advisor. This paper may be the execution of an action program, the development of materials or methodology suited to the student's situation, or development and execution of research appropriate to the profession.
- Hold a minimum grade point average of 2.5.
- Complete the degree within 4 years of admission.
Areas of Specialization
International Agriculture & Rural Development
One of the grand challenges of the 21st century is how to secure enough food to feed growing world populations in ways that ensure access for all and are environmentally sustainable. Students interested in gaining practical knowledge and skills related to agriculture and food production systems, including agro-ecology, regenerative agriculture, and agro-forestry, will find a rich array of relevant courses and opportunities for field-based learning. We have a long history of training students in IARD and a vast alumni network.
International Environmental Management
Global climate change has focused attention like never before on the need for careful stewardship of the world’s natural resources. Students interested in ecology, environmental sciences, and sustainability studies and in careers in international environmental management have access to a wide array of relevant courses at Cornell – the top-ranking Ivy League institution in national sustainability rankings. The Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability is an important extra-curricular resource for students; the Center hosts prominent speakers and offers additional opportunities for students to be involved in sustainability work.
As aid budgets have shrunk, the development sector has increasingly promoted social enterprise as a way for the world’s poor and middle classes to make a living, gain skills, create jobs, and substitute local products for imported goods and services. Our students, some of them entrepreneurs themselves, can learn practical skills related to starting and running social enterprises or measuring the impacts of these enterprises on families and communities. Students can also apply to participate in hands-on, field-based, student-led projects that contribute to small business development in emerging markets through the SMART Program.
Migration & Mobility
We live, more than ever before, in a world on the move. As people are forced from their homes due to climate change, conflict, and lack of economic opportunities, migrants, refugees, and diasporic populations have emerged as groups with specific and urgent needs. Students interested in preparing for careers in the humanitarian sector or in crafting policy or implementing programs to deal with the needs of migrants, refugees, diasporic populations, and host communities may focus their coursework in this area. Outside formal coursework, The Cornell Farmworker Program provides volunteer and other opportunities for students to be engaged in related issues in upstate New York.
Non-Profit & NGO Management
Non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are key actors in global development and poverty reduction projects. Students interested in gaining practical skills in leading these organizations may take courses to acquire the knowledge, skills, and strategic sensibilities needed to become effective leaders in the non-profit and NGO sectors.
Gender & Development
The impacts of development programs and policies have differed based on gender as well as other identities. Development projects carry with them understandings of gender and shape gender relations in ways that need to be critically evaluated and addressed. Students interested in working across sectors to make development projects more inclusive and egalitarian can learn about the history of such efforts, as well as current frameworks for gender analysis. Additional opportunities for student engagement – in the form of seminars, travel grants, and resource databases – are available to students through the Advancing Women in Agriculture through Research and Education (AWARE) program.
Education & Development
Education, in its many forms, is a key component of development projects. Students interested in gaining expertise in agricultural, extension, or youth or adult education will find a robust set of course offerings from which to choose. Outside the classroom, students have opportunities to learn from Cornell Cooperative Extension, a world-class extension service covering the state, and extension and outreach institutes in the Department of Global Development.
Demographic Change & Global Development
Demographic changes – from aging populations to youth bulges – provide opportunities as well as constraints on economic development. Students interested in understanding population-level influences on development and working to shape or analyze population policies and social or economic programs to respond to these changes will find a robust selection of relevant courses and deep faculty expertise at Cornell. Outside formal coursework, students may take advantage of the extensive programming of the Cornell Population Center.
International Development Economics & Policy
Cornell faculty and students have a long history studying the economics of development in low-income countries and advising governments in the area of economic policy. The university-wide community of those interested in economic issues surrounding development is vast, providing students unparalleled opportunities for studying these issues.
Director of Undergraduate Studies - IARD; Co-director of MPS in Global Development; Associate Director
Department of Global Development
School of Integrative Plant Science
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